Monday, April 30, 2012

Not In The Bible? - New Covenant in Christ's Blood

The tradition of Communion among believers is something of great importance to many.  Whether simple or elaborate, the Lord’s Supper is a time of introspection, prayer, and an opportunity for one on one time with our Savior. 

So what would happen, then, if the words of Christ in Luke 22:20 were never actually found in that chapter originally?  The lack of Christ stating that His blood was the New Covenant would place the whole of Christianity in question, as that New Covenant IS the basis of Christianity.  Yet, that is the accusation of some, and the subject of today’s entry.

In case you need a refresher, the verses reads:
And in the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and said, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."

It should be noted that far too often, opponents of Christianity tend to focus too highly on a single verse when attempting to disprove a statement or belief.  This is one of those cases, because the accusation actually states that this verse is at once something Christ never spoke; as well as saying that it isn’t found in any of the original texts.

This sort of myopic approach will often lead to frustration on the part of the accuser, if they have any real sense of self-respect; or the presentation of that which typifies so many enemies of God, willful ignorance.  As I will show you, this particular accusation is nothing if not narrow-sighted.  After seeing the aspects of this particular accusation, it will be easy to see why some may simply show frustration, or become angry, stubborn and behave like scolded children.

First, let us address the actual verse, focusing on Christ’s quotation specifically.  The charge states that Christ never said that “this cup… poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Yet in Matthew, we see Him stating “this is my blood of the new covenant which poured out for many for the remission of sins.”  In Mark, He is quoted as saying “this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.” 

In John, though the last supper is not spoken of in terms of what was actually done, instead focusing upon what Christ taught them at that time; Christ still referenced the “new covenant” and His blood.  Specifically, He stated that whoever ate of His flesh and drank of His blood would have life.  Most opponents of Christianity will not understand this point, but the “new covenant” spoken of in Luke, Matthew and Mark is new life in Christ.  It is eternal life, free from the curse of the law and sin, and available only through Him.

Thus, we have all four Gospels saying the same thing.  Though the exact quote differs slightly in three, and is missing from one, all four have Christ relating the same thing: That His blood is the New Covenant, and that it will be shed for all.

Moreover, this statement about the New Covenant is also echoed throughout the epistles.  Romans 11:27, speaking of Christ, states “for this is My [Jesus] covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”  1 Corinthians 11:25 quotes Christ directly, saying “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood.”  2 Corinthians says  that God “made us ministers of the New Covenant.”  Galatians 3:17 reads that God confirmed the New Covenant in Christ. 

Hebrews 7:22 says that “Jesus has become the surety of a better covenant,” then in 8:13, quotes directly again Christ’s use of the phrase “New Covenant.”  Hebrews mentions the New Covenant again in 9:15, 10:16, 12:24 and 13:20.  Most notable to our discussion is 9:15, which states “He [Jesus] is the Mediator of the New Covenant.”

Given all of these references to this same statement, it certainly looks as though the first half of the accusation has been met, and soundly defeated.  Now let us move on to the second half of that accusation, which states that the verse and quote cannot be found in any of the original texts.

In the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, (c.450), Luke 22:19 through 23:25 is missing or damaged.  It is important to understand that when I say “missing,” I mean that it is literally missing; in other words, there is a gap, tear or section of parchment that is not there.  Because of this, this particular codex cannot be used to back up the accusation’s claim.
The Codex Alexandrinus, (c.400-440), includes the last half of Luke, yet 22:20 is not part of the missing section of Luke.  Though damaged, it appears in this particular codex.
The Codex Vaticanus, (c.325-350), includes this verse, and the quote.  Moreover, it is hardly damaged and shows no sign of addition or editing.
As for the Codex Sinaiticus, (c.330-360), Luke 22:20 is absolutely included.  For anyone wishing proof, I offer the following: A shot of the verse in question, on folio 244.

Papyrus Bodmer, (c.175-225), also includes Luke 22:20.  This is one of the earliest surviving texts, by the way.

Aside from these original texts, Justin Martyr and Barnabas also spoke of the New Covenant received through the blood of Christ. Additionally, Iranaeus says this in his Against Heresies, (c.180):
“…the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He [Jesus] confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant…”

Coming to the end of this entry, it is clear now that the charge of Christ never uttering the statement found in Luke 22:20 is not only false; it is blindly, perhaps willfully, ignorant.  Moreover, the statement that said verse is not found within the original texts has also been shown to be a statement of idiocy.  Only those with the absolute will to be obstinate will continue to cling to such an accusation.

Class dismissed. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Not In The Bible? - bleeding in Gethsemane

When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, did He really sweat blood?  Or is that just a fable?  Did the disciples suffer a mass hallucination?  Or did He even pray at all?  These are some of the questions which are raised by the next accusation under the microscope: The accusation that Luke 22:44 is a “scribal edit.”

To one of these questions, we can answer immediately in the affirmative.  Yes, He did pray in Gethsemane.  This scene is repeated in Matthew, Mark and Luke, as well as other extra-canonical accounts.  Moreover, while John’s Gospel does not show Christ praying, it does have Him arrested within Gethsemane; and describes the mob which came to arrest Jesus in nearly identical fashion as the other three Gospels.  Furthermore, given the distance of the home they had Passover in to the garden; given the distance from the Temple to the garden; and given their dinner had been nearly ended when Judas left, there is a certain amount of time which elapses between John 18:1 and 18:3. 

Another reason John would not have included the prayer of Jesus, some say, is that he was fast asleep during the time it happened.  Still others state that while he was not the John who slept, he also was not close enough to see what happened.  I personally believe he had another reason for not writing about the prayer, and that is simply this: John wrote his Gospel to accent the divinity of Christ, as well as His humanity, through His ministry.
Finally, there is one other reason for this absence in John.  I agree with Augustine, who stated: 
“In the four Gospels, or rather in the four books of the one Gospel, the Apostle St. John not undeservedly with reference to his spiritual understanding compared to an eagle, has lifted higher, and far more sublimely than the other three, his proclamation, and in lifting it up he has wished our hearts also to be lifted…”  
In other words, John wrote this Gospel for the express purpose of deeper spirituality, faith, and ultimately, relationship with God.  Moreover, he wrote it to demonstrate, beyond shadow of doubt, that Christ was Divine- And for the Jews, that Christ was not introduced as a second god, but that He was the Word of God made flesh.

Going back to Luke, the first three questions can all be answered at roughly the same time.  No, the disciples did not suffer a mass hallucination; and though three may have been dreaming, it was only because they fell asleep while He was praying.  Yes, Christ did sweat blood while in prayer, which we’ll get into in a moment.  Finally, no, the account is not a fable.

To start, it is of great importance to note and keep in mind that Luke was a physician, and thus focused on more of the medical/physical aspects than any other writer of the Gospel.  To that end, Luke’s account of Christ’s suffering is a great deal more detailed and scientific, as it were.  Yet, this foolish accusation states that such a thing never happened.  Indeed, many times this accusation is accompanied with the statement that such a thing is not even possible.

First, let me just address the sweating of blood as a reality.  There is a medical condition, going by two names, which explain this.  Called hematidrosis or hemidrosis, it is when blood shows so close to the skin that it begins to pigment.  In more extreme cases, the capillaries hemorrhage into the pores of the skin where it mixes with sweat, thus thinning, and allowing one to “sweat blood.”  (By definition, it literally is sweating blood.)  This is caused by extreme stress, combined with high-blood pressure.  Stress causes capillaries to constrict, but high levels of stress also cause blood-pressure to rise to unbelievable intensities.

In case you are not familiar with what Christ could possibly have been so stressed out about…  Well, how much stress and physical anxiety would you be under if you knew every single aspect of your future death?

Now, on to the question of whether it is a fable or, as this particular accusation worded it, a “scribal edit.”  Were this to be a scribal edit, and given that the accusation also states that this description cannot be found in the original texts, it would not be found from codex to codex.  It would also not be known by the Ante-Nicene Fathers.  With this as the basis, let us immediately turn to the codices.
In the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, the “youngest” of the four uncials, Luke 22:44 is included on what are known as the “lost leaves.”  With an understanding of events of the fifth century, (specifically, around 450 A.D.); as well as the process which was involved to create these codices and the circumstances which would have necessitated them; it is a simple answer as to why these verse were included on these “lost leaves”: They were absolutely meant to be included, because they were translated; either a scribe was working while exhausted, or they were missing the section as likely happened with a portion of John, this verse was sent along with the codex for a very good reason; namely, that it belonged with it.  Thus, the accusation has already suffered defeat; still we will continue.

In the Codex Alexandrinus, these verses are missing completely.  This codex is the second youngest of the uncials, having been written around 400-450 A.D.  However, there is good reason this particular codex does not have the accused verse: It has been torn, or burned out.  This codex is heavily damaged, resulting in missing or “corrupted” text.  Because of this, the Codex Alexandrinus cannot be properly used as a basis for this accusation.

The Codex Vaticanus does not include this passage either; yet as I’ve mentioned in earlier entries, this codex and two papyri which have been used to support it were written during a period in which a full collection of Scripture was being attempted.  Vaticanus was written around 325-350 A.D., and this is an important date to note.  There will be more on this momentarily.

The Codex Sinaiticus included it originally, but the passage was removed at a later time by a “corrector.”  This took place at a time much later, and, according to scholar Dean Burgon, due to an overly pious belief that the passage impugned the deity of Christ.  It is important to note that it was originally included, and it is also once more present within this codex.

Papyri 69 and 75 both omit this passage.  However, though Papyri 75 was written within a range of 175-250 A.D., it is missing a large portion.  Thus, any so called support it lends any argument regarding the lack of Scripture must be withdrawn, for one cannot know if it was included upon a later leaf.  Moreover, Papyri 69 is but a fragment itself, and thus the same argument applies.

With this said, if a contemporary document was found in completion, and it did not include the Scripture in question, then further, deliberate investigation would absolutely be needed.  As it stands, Uncial 171, (which dates to no later than 300 A.D.), includes this passage.

Now, with all of that said, the early Church Fathers would not have heard of this were it a later addition or a “scribal edit.”  Yet, we have evidence that Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, and others, (disciples of the Apostles), have all referenced the passage.  Though some of these references were less than gracious, they prove its existence.

When the evidence which has been presented is taken into account, it cannot truly be said that this verse was never included in Luke.  One may make the accusation, but it does not hold up to scrutiny.  Only the most ignorant would continue to make such a claim after a careful review of the evidence at hand.  Thus, this accusatory “myth” is busted.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not In The Bible? - An explanation

Recently, I was asked by a few individuals why I am doing this series.  One person mistakenly thought it to be an attempt at apologetics, while another thought it to be a challenge to enemies of the Gospel to come up with something better.  There were other thoughts, but I'll leave them out of this summary.

Suffice to say, I believe that many Christians today find themselves beset by attacks from all around them; and as the Bible is, sadly, the last book many read when in trouble, it is important for followers of Christ to know that what we believe is true.

I can appreciate the thought that I am attempting an apologetic argument; yet that is not what this is about.  This is about showing people who already believe the Scriptures that those same Inspired Words are without question.  It is about answering the challenges in the simplest possible terms, without getting into areas that require degrees or massive study.  It is about presenting evidence to the Believer that they are right, and that the enemy, through the use of the deceived, is absolutely a liar.

I hope you continue to enjoy the series, and may God bless you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Not In The Bible? - Cast the First Stone

John 8:7 and 8:11- Two very important verses within the Christian world.  These take place within the very well known story of Christ’s encounter with the prostitute taken to Him for judgment.  8:7 states that he who is without sin casts the first stone; and 8:11 says go and sin no more.  Many Christians have based a great deal of their life around verses such as these.  So what would happen if this section, specifically, these two verses, did not exist?

Quite honestly, nothing.  Or more correctly, nothing should be different.  However, in this day and age, many believers find themselves feeling as though they are on thin ground where their faith is concerned.  Suggestions such as those we’ve discussed thus far only help to shake that footing.  In reality, our faith and its basis is the firmest and surest place upon which to stand, and base our lives upon.  However, in this day and age, as the roaring lion continues to grow ever stronger in this world, accusations such as thing not only come more frequently, but serve to bring hurricane force winds to the uncertain believer.

It is for this reason that we must always remain on our guard and aware of the machinations of our enemy, the Devil.  Moreover, we should be ever conscious of his methods, because as has been said before: “Darkness never learns.”  The forces of Hell constantly bring the same attacks as they have always brought, and these include the attempted shaking of Christians in their most closely held beliefs.

With the two verses mentioned above, most of these accusations begin by stating that they were added in, and most point to the King James Bible as the first perpetrator.  However, I would point out here that these verses are found in many earlier translations, including Martin Luther’s of 1545; the 1535 Miles Coverdale; and Wycliff’s of 1385.  These are not the only versions to have this section: The Latin Vulgate also carries these verses.

However, arguments could potentially be made against even these earliest of translations, because some of the original codices do not include these verses.  What is to be said, then, of the amazing words said by Jesus, which have made their way even into our pop culture?  Are the accusations of editorial liberties to be taken seriously; and if so, could the Bible be wrong?

First, let me address the claim’s historical accuracy: Of the four uncials, (four earliest known copies of the Bible), not one surviving copy has the account, let alone these two verses, written within it.  Thus, it would seem, at least on the surface, that the accusations have actual basis.  The lack of the verses within the earliest known versions of the Bible does indeed seem to close the case.

However, what this particular accusation fails to take into account, and conveniently forgets to mention, is that in every one of these versions, there are marks indicating that something is missing between John 7:52 and 8:12.  What could possibly be missing, if these are complete copies?
For that, let us begin with the Codex Vaticanus, which dates to about 325 B.C., as it includes a symbol known to indicate other alternate versions.  What this means is that the writers and translators of the Vaticanus knew of the account’s existence in prior copies, but were forced simply to mark it as known, rather than including it.  There are any number of reasons which could be given for this, but the most plausible, and quite common in that day and age, was their inability to actually see the original version.

This suggestion is absolutely plausible when one looks back to history.  The codex was written around the same time as the Council of Nicaea- And just after a civil war which left a great deal of chaos in its wake.  Though the codex is given a span of twenty-five years inception, within that period of time there were many wars of note, and all of which would have severely hampered the safe transport of this known but untranslated portion of Scripture.  Of particular note is the ruler Licinius, who from 320 to late 324, confiscated many Christian items.  Regardless of where it was written (Asia Minor, Rome or Egypt), however, the fact remains that war, persecution and political upheaval would have prevented the translation, and thus the full inclusion, of this section.

Further dismissals have come with the facetious statement that, if they were not included within the papyri, they must not have been in the original Gospel.  This is a foolish statement that stands, at best, upon assumption rather than fact.  The truth is that, even at the time the codices were written, the Bible did not exist in a collected form.  Thus, people either memorized it through study, or copied it down for others.  If one had a section, and not the other, the missing portion would be copied and sent them.  Such events are documented throughout this time period, and even within the Bible itself.  (Copies of Paul’s letters being sent to area churches, for instance.)

Further evidence of this can be seen in the writings of Papias, who pointed out that this same account was also recorded within the Gospel of the Hebrews, an apocryphal book known among scholars of Church History as one of the “Lost Gospels.”  Some may wonder why I would choose to include statements on non-canonical books: I do so for the fact that Papias’ statements were written before the earliest of the four uncials was composed.  This not only makes a strong case for its inclusion within the Gospel of John, as Papias mentions it specifically as being found in John, but also its being an actual occurrence.

Now, finally, the question must be asked: Is John the only place we see these two standards, (“he who is without sin cast the first stone,” and “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”), or is it echoed in other areas of Scripture?

In Luke 12:13-14, we see a similar display in regards to the lack of judgment.  In this case, however, it is directed at a man who wanted Christ to order his brother to divide his inheritance with him.  The response was, “who appointed me judge over you?”  This is just one instance of the non-judgmental aspects portrayed in John, yet the fact that it is mentioned even one other provides a firm stance for the underlying principle.

Also in Luke (6:42) we read “Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.”  This clearly echoes the “he who is without sin” statement within John.  This same statement is found in Matthew 7:5.

As for the “go and sin no more” statement we see in John 8, this statement is seen coming from Christ elsewhere: John 5:14.  However, in that instance, His blessing came with a warning; He told the man “Go and sin no more, lest greater trouble befall you.”  Similar statements are seen in Matthew, Luke and Mark.

We come now to the end of this entry.  We have seen that the lessons found in John 8 are found elsewhere in the Bible, and are thusly true.  We have discovered that there is evidence of these two verse being included in the original Gospel of John; both through witness of Papias, who predated the earliest surviving codex; as well as through the translators of the codices themselves.  We have seen the accusations of editorial liberties on this passage beginning with the KJV put to rest through the presentation of far earlier versions.

In closing, I wish to leave two final tidbits with you.  First is that three of four uncials have what are known as “lost pages.”  These were separate pages upon which were written additional translations, apparently completed after the document was crafted.  They were meant to be included with each codex; something which is, again, a well documented event of the time period, affecting far more than just copies and translations of Scripture.

Secondly, the question of “why would this section be left out?” may, perhaps, be answered best through the statements of Augustine, who wrote that he wondered if perhaps that account may prompt immoral activity; or the false belief that Christ was closing a blind eye to adultery.

We will continue to study similar accusations against Scripture at a later date.  Until then, God bless.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Not In The Bible? - Three Witnesses In Heaven

Recently, it was brought to my attention once more that certain verses which we hold as Scripture today are not found in the earliest manuscripts.  This is, for some, a troubling thought because it causes one to question the Word of God.  For myself, however, it is no more of an issue than most paraphrased translations.  Scripture remains true, regardless of what was taken from the margins and inserted.  I am hoping to show what I mean today, with the verse of 1 John 5:7.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.                                                           ~KJV

Now, there are going to be some outraged individuals when I say this, but you must hear me out: The statement that 1 John 5:7 is not in "the Bible," is true.  It is also false.  This is the paradox I am hoping to shed some light on.

We all know that nearly every version one reads, they will find some manner of the above quotation.  In this way, it is, in fact, in the Bible in a very literal sense.  Thus, the statement that it is not is false.  I want to emphasize this point, though: If one can get a copy of the Greek/Hebrew Interlinear, do so.  It will enhance your understanding of the Word tremendously, as well as help you prepare for answering charges such as this one.

Where the statement is true, however, is in the very earliest of manuscripts.  The Codex Sinaiticus, for instance, is one of the earliest copies known to us.  Within its tomes, we discover the verse in question, in its entirety, reads thusly:

For they that testify are three,
So what does this mean for the believer?  Does this indeed prove that there is no such thing as the Trinity?  If it does, it surely proves that God does not exist, correct?

In actuality, this very question was what sparked heresies that began stirring even during Paul's time.  Arianism taught, for instance, that Christ was the created Son of God, and that He did not actually exist within the Godhead from the beginning, thus rendering the Trinity teaching suspect.  Monarchianism, Patripassinism, Modalism and Manichaeanism all taught that there was no Trinity- The first three stated that all three were one God, in a literal sense, meaning that God the Father died on the cross; while the last taught that Christ was not Divine and thus there could be no divinity.  Meanwhile, Polytheism went the opposite direction, teaching that the Trinity was a corporation, if you will, of three individual gods.  None of these based their points solely on 1 John 5:7, of course; however, we can see the same sort of thoughts which led to these false teachings arising today, watered by such accusations as the one currently being addressed.

The entire accusation, (1 John 5:7 is not in the Bible), hinges on there being nothing else to support what that verse is ultimately stating: Namely, that there is a Trinity.  However, we already know that Christ stated for a fact that anyone who had seen Him had also seen the Father. (John 14:9)  This suggests, of course, that though separate, He and the Father were also one, which is an integral aspect of the Trinity.  Moreover, we see that, when asked point blank if He was the Son of God, Christ answered in the affirmative.  (Matthew 26:63&64)  There are a few arguments about these verses as well, but I'll come back to it.  
Still more affirmation of Christ's own Divinity and individual identity can be found.  For instance, when asked by Christ who people said He was, Peter immediately responded with "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!"  (Matthew 16:16)  Other examples are the plentiful accounts of demons crying out that He was, in fact, the Son of God.  One in particular which sticks in my mind included the question "...have you come to torment us before the appointed time?" (Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11, 5:9; Luke 4:41, 8:30)

As pertains to the Holy Spirit- There is Christ's own baptism (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32); His assurance that His Spirit would come to lead us (John 14:1715:26; 20:22; Luke 24:29; Matthew 28:19-20); Christ's response to Peter's revelation (Matthew 10:20)...  Not to mention Genesis 1:2.  References to the Spirit of God and His individuality are found literally throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Finally, the charge against 1 John 5:7 fails to take into account the fact that 1 John 5:6 references Christ and the Holy Spirit- Some translations have substituted "Christ" for "Word," but regardless, it means the same.  John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  It goes on to say, in verse 14 "...and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us..."

So what is the story of 1 John 5:7?  In the beginning of the story of the Bible, everything was handwritten.  It is very likely that one of the only known manuscripts of 1 John at the time it was being translated had a side notation, much like we do today, referencing the fact that the Trinity was being spoken of here by inference.  The translators assumed it was an addendum, and included it as such.  
Mind you, this is only conjecture based upon my study of Bible and Church history.  However, based upon my knowledge of the subject, it is extremely likely.  Moreover, though 5:7 was added to, you'll notice that it is not contradictory to the whole of Scripture in any way.  If anything, it, like many paraphrases, allows for a better comprehension of Biblical truth.

With all of this said, the accusation that 1 John 5:7 does not exist in the Bible is false on three grounds and only partially true on two grounds.  It is partially true, in that the verse as it currently reads is not found in whole within the oldest manuscripts.  It is also partially true as pertains to the latter half of the verse being an addendum.  
However...  It is false in that the verse exists in most translations today, this taken from a very literal standpoint.  It is false in that the verse does exist, but not as worded in most translations today.  It is false in that it does not strike against Biblical truth, and this is the heart of this "argument."  

This argument, and all of its various forms, is meant to sway a believer from the faith.  However, as I've just shown, there is nothing to the argument but hot air and the lies of the enemy.  The heart of the argument is against the Trinity, and thus, the validity of Scripture as a whole.  

The heart of the argument, however, has just been declared DOA.  

There are nine more verses which I will also look at, so stay tuned!

PS: Some folks believe Matthew 26:64 does not prove Christ claimed He was the Son of God, because His statement is "You have said it."  This only seems innocuous and noncommittal in our day and age.  In that time, and among those people, to not deny such a question was absolutely as great as a direct "yes."  It stated that not only was the question true, but that the questioner had just attested to the truth of it with his own mouth.  This is one of the reasons the Chief Priest tore his robes.  This is to say nothing of His going on to say "and you shall see the Son of Man [addressing Himself] seated at the right hand of the Almighty and coming in the clouds of glory."  This whole statement says, in a definite manner, that He WAS the Son of God, and also God.