Sunday, June 1, 2008
Are you telling the truth about the Bible?
Someone not of our faith recently asked me a question I was glad to answer. He was under the impression that LDS people believe the Bible had been corrupted and wanted to know "just exactly how the Bible has been corrupted". I appreciated him for asking the question and for having the chance to respond.
My response is based off of my New Testament class notes with Stephen Robinson while I studied at BYU several years ago. He was a master teacher and his areas of expertise were Biblical Studies (New Testament, Christian Origins, History of Christianity), as well as LDS studies. He reads Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, and Coptic—so he’s done his homework. Based off that class I learned some things about the Bible I didn’t know previously—some of which I used to try to answer the question and clear up any misunderstanding.
Our present New Testament dates back to about 367 A.D. when the books of scripture were organized. Sometime between 50 A.D. and 100/175 A.D. some “plain and precious” things were taken out. They were NOT edited or altered (corrupted?). They were just lost. Comparing the books of scripture to a file cabinet—some files were just taken out and lost completely. They weren’t edited—just lost. (For example, 1st Corinthians 5:9—that epistle was lost. Try to picture a letter to Loudicious, or a letter .5 to the Corinthians, versus the first letter that we know of.)
Now, in the copying of the copies of the biblical manuscripts, accidental scribal mistakes were made--that's just historical fact. Also, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, "scribes occasionally altered the words of their sacred texts to make them more patently orthodox and to prevent their misuse by Christians who espoused aberrant views." Most of these alterations were relatively minor and did not affect fundamental Christian doctrine.
We ought to be thankful the monks preserved that which we have. That which we have (our present Bible) is largely correct—and apostolic. We testify of the miracle of the Holy Bible.
The second century church Hellanized the Bible. (They tried to make it fit into Greek theory). Now there are over 5,000 manuscripts of the New Testament. No two are alike. And there is no such thing as “the original Greek”, only scholarly reconstructions of what we think Paul must have written.
Jesus probably spoke Aramaic, and Greek as a second language. (One side note that I find interesting is that the word always translated “carpenter” in Greek means “architect, builder, contractor”. The Greek “Tekton” means builder. Thus, the “Builder” of the Universe was a builder by profession. (Jesus would have worked in wood and stone).
But the Bible as we know it today is largely correct. The truer LDS understanding is that there were completely lost books--like a file was just deleted from the computer and never was included in the Bible that we have today. Now certainly there are a few things that got changed up in the translations and in the copying of the original scripts, but the truth is we can’t know for sure how much or how many. So I thank God that we have what we have in the Holy Bible--I love the Bible--as well as the further “plain and precious” things contained in the Book of Mormon.