Sunday, August 20, 2017

The reliability of the New Testament. (2)

This is the sequel to an earlier article on the same topic.

In my previous article I stated, supported by ample evidence,  that the books of the New Testament were all written during the lifetime of the Apostles. A number of their contemporaries mentioned the books of the New Testament by name and often cited pieces of text.

How can we be certain of the integrity of the text of the New Testament?

What I mean by this question is this: how can we be sure that the New Testament contains the same text as the authors (the Apostles) have written? The problem is that there is no surviving copy (from the time of the Apostles) of even one of the books of the New Testament.

After the Apostles died, the following generations of Christians had to rely more and more on the written word the Apostles produced. During the 2nd century AD controversies arose about the interpretation of these texts. Except for Marcion (85-160 AD), who rejected the God of the Old Testament and began to purge the New Testament of Hebrew influence, all debaters based their arguments on the texts of the books of the New Testament. Even Celsus, a 2nd-century Greek philosopher who attacked Christianity, based his arguments on the works of the Apostles and never questioned their authorship. Christians began to write commentaries on the Scriptures (the Old Testament and the New Testament) and to answer critics of the Christian faith. These writings often contained extensive quotes from the books of the New Testament. Furthermore copies were made of the original epistles of the Apostles. These copies were also copied and so on. The same happened to the writings of the early Church Fathers.

For the most part only fragments survived. This seems to be a fatal blow to the integrity of the text of the New Testament. But it is not. There are thousands of fragments found at different places and at different times. From these fragments one has been able to compile three almost identical volumes of the New Testament. The fact that these fragments were found at different places and times is a strong argument against the accusation made by Islam that Christians corrupted the original text of the New Testament. How can that be? There were no central editors who would have altered the text before distribution. The original books of the New Testament were first distributed by the authors (the Apostles) themselves. Copies were later made by the recipient churches in places far remote from each other. These copies were again copied. The thousands surviving fragments of these copies can be compiled to multiple, almost identical, New Testaments. The differences between these copies of the New Testament are minor and not very significant. What seemed to be a weakness for the reliability of the text, the absence of a complete early copy of the New Testament and the need to rely on surviving fragments, is in fact an asset. The accusation that Christians have corrupted the text of the New Testament is absurd.

The books of the New Testament are written by men. The Gospels are as it were, eyewitness reports of the ministry of Christ. Like all eyewitness reports concerning a particular event, they sometimes differ. In this case there are differences but they do not contradict each other. They agree on the main narrative.

My conclusion is that the New Testament that lays in front of me on my desk, shows faithfully what the Apostles wrote.

A very illuminating article "Text and Manuscripts of the New Testament" by Charles Fremont Sitterly can be found here.

- To be continued -

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The reliability of the New Testament. (1)


In a discussion with Mr. Ali H.A. Altawati Alqurashi (one of my Arabic speaking tweeps, @Alitawati) we debated about some differences between the Koran and the New Testament. A major point was the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. The Koran denies these facts. Contradicting statements cannot both be true. Either the Koran speaks the truth or the New Testament does. My approach is not to attack the Koran but to faithfully defend the New Testament.

For this article I referred to "Evidences of Christianity" by William Paley (1743 - 1805), it is an excellent work which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the history of the establishment of Christianity. Another source is "The history of the Church" by Eusebius (260-340 AD).

When was the New Testament written?

An opinion one often encounters is that the New Testament was written hundreds of years after the life of Christ. For a number of reasons that is highly improbable:

  1. According to the evangelists Matthew (24:1), Mark (13:2) and Luke (21:6) Christ predicted that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. The destruction of the Temple by the Romans occurred in the year 70 AD. This event has never been mentioned by the authors of the New Testament. This strongly suggests that the apostles wrote the Gospels, Acts, Epistels and Revelations (which form the New Testament) before the year 70 AD. Would they have been aware of the destruction of the Temple, would they not had it almost triumphantly reported this as a proof of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Christ?
  2. The apostle Paul was executed in Rome sometime between 64 AD and 67 AD. The book "The Acts of the Apostles" (part of the New Testament) describes in great detail the events in which the apostles were involved. The adventurous travels of the apostle Paul are a real treat to read. Yet his death hasn't been reported, which suggests that the Acts were written before 64 AD.
    The travels of the apostle Paul as described in The Acts of the Apostles.
  3.  The apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:15) refers to the letters of the apostle Paul. This indicates that the epistles of Paul must have been known by the readers of the letters of Peter.
  4. Many early Church Fathers mentioned parts of the New Testament explicitly and/or quoted from them in words we now clearly recognize as words used by the Apostles. Some examples are:
    1. Clement, a companion of the apostle Paul, was the first bishop of Rome. He held office from 88 AD to 99 AD, when he died at the age of 101. He wrote an epistle in which he quoted words of Christ as we find them in the Gospels. He also evidently quoted from the Epistle to the Romans (by the apostle Paul), the Epistle to the Hebrews and the apostle Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians. Of the latter Clement wrote: "Take into your hands the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul."
    2. At the end of the Epistle to the Romans the apostle Paul salutes a number of people, among them a certain Hermas who wrote a book called: The Shepherd. This book contains quotations from the Gospels of the apostles Matthew, Luke and John and a probable allusion the Acts.
    3. Ignatius became bishop of Antioch about 70 AD. The apostle Paul started his travels from Antioch. Probably Ignatius would have known Paul and the other Apostles. Polycarp, a contemporary of Ignatius, referred to epistles of the latter. These epistles contain quotes from the Gospels of the apostles Matthew and John. Ignatius mentions the apostle Paul with great respect and refers to the apostle's Epistle to the Ephesians by name and quotes parts of it.
    4. Polycarp (69-155 AD) was a pupil of the apostle John. There is one known epistle of Polycarp which includes almost 40 references to the books of the New Testament. He also confirms the use of the Lord's Prayer by the early Christians.
    5.  Papias (60-130 AD), also a disciple of the apostle John. Eusebius, the famous early Church historian, quotes from a work of Papias. This particular work has since been lost but thanks to Eusebius we know the contents. Papias writes specifically about the Gospels of the apostles Matthew and Mark.
The men mentioned above were, with the exception of Eusebius, all contemporaries of the apostles. They cited from the Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles. That proves that these books were in existence at that time.

During the first years of early Christianity a lot of churches were established by the apostles in many parts of the Roman Empire. The first Christians were instructed by the apostles by word of mouth and by letters and copies of the Gospels. There are indications that these documents circulated among the early churches. As the early Christians knew the apostles in person they had no difficulty in recognizing the letters and other documents sent to them or handed over to them personally. There was no need for a canon or catalogue of the books of the New Testament at that time.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

إلى أتباعي الذين يتكلمون العربية.

أصدقائي الأعزاء، أشكركم على متابعتي على تويتر. فجأة، اتبعني عدد كبير من الناس العرب. أن حيرة لي قليلا جدا. ليس لدي أي فكرة لماذا أستحق الشرف. كنت موضع ترحيب كبير، وأنا أؤكد لكم. أنا لا أتحدث العربية. كتبت هذه الرسالة بمساعدة الترجمة من جوجل. إذا كنت أكتب لي باللغة العربية، يرجى استخدام جمل قصيرة وكلمات بسيطة.
الإنجليزية هي لغتي الأم. حتى إذا كنت تستطيع، يرجى كتابة تويت الخاص بك باللغة الإنجليزية.
إذا كنت مسلم متدين، سوف أحترم ذلك. أنا مسيحي مخلص وأطلب منك احترام ذلك في المقابل.

أعيش في هولندا في بلدة على ساحل بحر الشمال. أنا بلغتين (الإنجليزية والهولندية). أنا أتكلم الألمانية بشكل معقول.

شكرا لكم على قراءة المقدمة. أتمنى لكم يوما جيدا (وأكثر في المستقبل).

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thierry Baudet, omvolking en homeopathische verdunning.

Regelmatig beschuldigen mensen Thierry Baudet van fascisme en racisme. Wanneer ik hen dan vraag naar concrete bewijzen dan komt er meestal wat flauwekul die ik al eerder weerlegd heb, zie daarvoor mijn blogposts Thierry Baudet, een fascist? en Weer eens over Thierry Baudet.

Twee beschuldigingen die hardnekkig blijven opduiken betreffen zijn uitspraken 'Omvolking' en "Homeopathische Verdunning'. Deze termen worden als het ultieme bewijs voor het fascisme en het racisme van Baudet aangevoerd. We gaan de uitdrukkingen eens nader bekijken.

Omvolking. De Duitse nazi-uitdrukking die hier aan ten grondslag ligt is Umvolkung. Hiermee werd bedoeld de assimilatie (bijvoorbeeld russificatie) van oorspronkelijke Duitsers die in nog te veroveren Oostelijke gebieden leefden. De nazi's vonden dit ongewenst, daarom moesten ze weer gegermaniseerd worden. Een term die met deze politiek in verband staat is Umsiedlung. Daarmee werd de gedwongen deportatie naar Duitsland bedoeld van bijvoorbeeld Bessarabiendeutschen die in de Sovjet-Unie woonden. Daartoe werd in het Hitler-Stalin pakt van 1939 een geheime clausule opgenomen. Er bestond ook een plan om in de veroverde gebieden in Rusland, 'germaanse pioniers' te vestigen om ook die gebieden te germaniseren, men dacht zelfs om Nederlanders naar dat gebied te deporteren.

Waar Baudet het over heeft met de term 'Omvolking' is heel iets anders. Het gaat niet om de assimilatie van buitenlanders die hier zijn komen wonen of van Nederlanders in het buitenland. Nee, het gaat om de m.i. gerechtvaardigde vrees dat grote aantallen immigranten uit islamitische landen, door hun intolerante religie hier het leven aanzienlijk onprettiger zullen maken. Denk aan de moord op Theo van Gogh, is er al een opvolger van hem opgestaan? Nee, niemand durft. Denk aan de beveiliging die prominente islam-critici nodig hebben. Denk aan de no-go areas in diverse Europese steden. Denk aan het pas aan het licht gebrachte corruptieschandaal (islamitische vriendjespolitiek) van de Amsterdamse anti-radicaliserings ambtenaar. Denk aan het hoge misdaadpercentage van allochtone jongeren. Denk aan de behandeling van vrouwen, joden, atheïsten, christenen en homo's. Denk aan de meest recente migranten uit Afrika, die hier volkomen kansloos zijn en een zware wissel gaan trekken op sociale bijstand en de zorg. Volgens deskundigen willen tientallen miljoenen Afrikanen hierheen komen. De voorhoede is al duidelijk zichtbaar. Kortom, het gaat Baudet om een radicale beteugeling van de immigratie, om 'omvolking' tegen te gaan. Ik vind dat zelf een ongelukkige term die hij beter niet had kunnen gebruiken, maar het stempelt hem niet tot een fascist.

Beoordeel de uitspraken van Baudet eens objectief en lees het partijprogramma van het Forum voor Democratie. Staat daar iets in over her-nederlandsing van oorspronkelijke Nederlanders in het buitenland (in analogie met germanisering)? Staat er iets in over Umsiedlung (deportatie van bevolkingsgroepen)?

Homeopathische verdunning. Hiermee bedoelt Baudet dat onze levenswijze en cultuur door immigratie veranderd worden (zonder dat we daarom gevraagd hebben). Het beeld wat hij gebruikt, homeopatische verdunning, is een uitermate zwak beeld. Bij de bereiding van homeopatische middelen wordt het werkzame bestanddeel verdund in alcohol in verhoudingen van 1:100 tot wel 1:50.000. Met 1 miljoen moslims op totaal 17 miljoen inwoners kan je nauwelijks van een 'homeopatische verdunning' spreken. Wat is trouwens het verband met racisme of fascisme? SS-artsen waren academisch geschoolde medici en praktiseerden de klassieke geneeskunde. Een filosofisch warhoofd als Himmler was, meen ik, geïnteresseerd in homeopathie maar wat betekent dat? Hitler was geheelonthouder en rookte niet. Wat betekent dat voor hedendaagse geheelonthouders en niet-rokers? Niets toch? Wat Baudet bedoelt met omvolking en homeopatische verdunning heeft niets met racisme te maken, het gaat om de dreiging voor de Nederlandse cultuur en levenswijze door niet-Westerse immigranten die niet willen of kunnen integreren. Met fascisme heeft het evenmin te maken.